Wine & spirits: Matching wine and cheese
One of the easiest ways to increase the pleasure of a wine is by enjoying it with a complementary cheese. The synergy of these two fermented and aged foods is impossibly complex to describe yet ridiculously easy to savour and appreciate.
Which cheese goes with which wine?
The choice of which cheese to pair with which wine can be a matter of personal taste, but there are so many cheeses to choose from that it helps to have a few guidelines.
For example, soft, milder cheeses like mozzarella are best with dry whites, rosés and light reds. The delicate, subtle flavours of whites and light reds are overpowered by sharp, mature cheeses and pungent blues, while strongly flavoured cheeses like Cheddar need full-flavoured, full-bodied wines.
Richly flavoured blue cheeses, on the other hand, shine when paired with naturally sweet wines. The classic match is Stilton and port. Each is great on its own, but together they're a match made in heaven.
Another great marriage is the combination of Roquefort and Sauternes, a very sweet, rich, late-harvested French white wine. Again, the sweet, creamy texture and pungent saltiness of a runny Roquefort make uninhibited love to concentrated and unctuous high-sugar wines. Icewine is perfect, too, as it balances the cheese's saltiness.
However, many drinkers prefer to complement the pungent mould with a dry red from the Côtes du Rhône; others choose a red Burgundy or other full-bodied Pinot Noir. That's where personal taste comes in.
Gorgonzola, an ultracreamy blue cheese, is too opulent for a regular sweet wine but marries well with a sweet bubbly such as Italian Asti or Canadian sparkling icewine. Cooler weather calls for cheese fondue. Swiss cooks mix several cheeses in secret proportions. I like to blend half Gruyère, and then equal amounts of Emmenthal, Appenzeller and Vacherin. The flavour of my fondue needs a wine with good acidity and a strong mineral taste. The Swiss would serve Fendant, their national grape, but I like an Austrian Grüner Veltliner as much.
Much loved is Beaujolais with a spreadable-but-crumbly goat's milk cheese. Beaujolais is made from the red-fleshed Gamay grape, which has adapted well in the Niagara region, so serve well-priced examples from the province with Snow Goat or other tasty brands. An alternative to try with goat's, sheep's or ewe's milk cheese is Baronnes Sancerre from France's Loire district or a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
An aromatic Gewürztraminer, with its spicy, honeyed, lychee aromas and rich broiled grapefruit taste, is perfection with a round of Muenster. The best of both wine and cheese hail from France's Alsace region, but they're hard to find. Look for a good Canadian Gewürztraminer from the Mount Boucherie winery in British Columbia.
Wine and cheese matches you'll love
STILTON & 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, W&J Graham (Portugal), $28
ROQUEFORT & Sparkling Riesling Icewine VQA, Pillitteri Winery (Ontario), $70
GOAT'S MILK CHEESE & Beaujolais-Villages, Mommessin (France), $13, or Gamay VQA, Henry of Pelham (Ontario), $14
GORGONZOLA & Asti, Martini & Rossi (Italy), $12
MUENSTER & Gewürztraminer, Dopff & Irion (France), $16, or Gewürztraminer,
Mount Boucherie (British Columbia), $14
CHEDDAR (MEDIUM/OLD) & Mission Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Mission Hill (British Columbia), $21
GOAT'S, SHEEP'S OR EWE'S MILK CHEESE & Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Delegat's (New Zealand), $18, or Baronnes Sancerre, Henri Bourgeois & Fils (France), $24